That perfect state

Two days ago I was walking through our village with three six-year-old boys, my son and two of his friends, on the way back from getting the first ice cream of the year. They were happily babbling away in Spanish, it was gloriously warm, a perfect spring afternoon.

I was struck by how funny it was to be walking along with three kids chatting away in Spanish, but how normal too – how odd it was that this had ended up my normality! That Spanish should go in and out of my head as easily as English after all these years. That I should have a Spanish son with Spanish friends. How curious life is!

And I felt completely happy. This happiness involved no internet, mobile phone, gadgets, entertainment, just the realisation that the present moment was perfect just as it was. Being outside, with three happy children, was enough.

It reminded me of a few lines that spilled out into a notebook of mine the other night:

That perfect state
That perfect energy
When now is all there is…
This very moment
And all it has to offer
Is enough.

I’m convinced that mindfulness, or awareness, or ‘being awake’ is the perfect state. When we realise that we have enough with simply that, and what wonders of life cross our path from moment to moment. What keeps us from that state? The mind and its inventions, needs, desires, perceived lacks… But we need so so little to be happy.

I’ve recently been driving myself mad trying to decide which camera lens to buy next – but the one I have already takes great pictures – I have enough! My wife was wondering whether to take on new yoga classes at a prestigious center, but a little too far from home – but then she realised that she already has enough classes nearby to be happy.

I think the idea of having enough conditions for happiness already is so important – we just have to keep an eye on our dear mind and how easily it’s tempted – and let’s face it, we live in a society that is absolutely designed to offer us more and more of everything all day long – more things to buy, more things to experience, more things to learn, to do – we must consume all of this to keep it all going, and marketers will do their best to ensure we do! It’s no wonder we drive ourselves mad wondering what else we could ‘add’ to our lives to make them better.

‘I have enough, I have enough’, with this perfect moment, and all it has to offer. What peace there is in that way of living.

18 thoughts on “That perfect state”

  1. if the mind doesn’t get in the way all is fine as it is. If it really is not fine we will know it too. But that naughty mind and its tricks… Makes it all fun and playful actually.

  2. Thanks for sharing this. I’ve been pondering along these lines lately as well. A couple of complementary observations:

    We now live in an era where access — to information, entertainment, materials, etc. — is no longer an issue. It wasn’t that long ago that everything was local and limited, and filling time could be a challenge. That created a scarcity mindset. Nowadays, our challenge is the opposite: Turning off the spigot on the fire hose aimed our way so we can focus on what truly matters.

    You mention “perfect energy” in addition to “perfect state.” I’ve also begun to realize it’s about more than taming and calming the mind. It’s about being “permeable” (as the mind and ego diminish) so that life energy from the source can flow through unimpeded.

    1. As my mind obsesses over another vintage camera or other desires, I say to myself, Oh there’s that feeling of desire again. That’s okay. Notice how it feels. Now notice the how breathing feels, how the trees sound in wind and the earth presses against my feet. I have more than enough. Desire will rise, and it will fall away. Then my mind returns to how beautiful that vintage camera is, and how wonderful it would be to shoot with it. These are thoughts, I remind myself, and I can acknowledge them without losing equanimity. In fact, they are an opportunity for me. An opportunity to practice. Maybe one day they will disappear. Maybe not. But I am whole, watching them sail through my mind, pushed along by those feelings of desire. It’s like being in a dream and knowing it.

      1. James – it seems you have things well under control! And maybe in this dream-like life in the end it’s OK to get the occasional vintage camera and enjoy using it!

  3. These moments are priceless. I had a professor once, he said in such moments you feel like everything that has happened to you in your life was right and good that it brought you eventually to this moment in a way you could never imagine.
    It is indeed a challenge to try not to give in to what you may call the crazy global consumerism. Instead of adding, I try to think about things I can remove from my life to make it happier. It is actually not so easy but sure a rewarding mental challenge!

    1. Hi Saba, Taking away is wonderful, yes. I went through a period of years recently throwing things out and giving them away: books, photos, clothes, old cameras, objects etc etc. It felt wonderful, cleansing. Now I’m very wary of getting new things again. It felt good to have a very small footprint, so to speak. I think too many things (including projects) clutter us up internally as well as externally.

  4. Hi Ben, this may seem like an odd question but it´s a serious one….do you (and Marina) drink alcohol?

    1. Hi Melanie, the short answer is Marina nearly nothing (and mostly nothing) and me very very little. About four years ago I gave up completely for two years, after probably having drunk a bit too much over the previous 20 years (typical British social drinking, nothing ‘dangerous’), after which I got fed up with it. After the two years off I decided it was Ok to have the occasional glass of wine, and since then have gone on and off, mostly off, drinking, and now, every now and again drink a little bit, usually a glass of wine or beer with a meal, or in a bar with a friend.

      Anything more than that and I feel terrible the next day for a start! I thought for a long time that to really experience life in the present moment it would be better to drink nothing at all, but I realised my non-drinking had a lot of ‘effort’ involved, and that occasionally I really wanted to drink a nice glass of wine. So that’s where I am now. Not drinking much, but occasionally a wine or beer or two. I think it’s OK. I’ve decided that for now, for me it’s Ok to drink a tiny bit occasionally, and it’s OK not to drink anything – I oscillate between the two at the moment. It wouldn’t suprise me if I gave up entirely again though, just because even that tiny bit makes me feel not great afterwards, so there isn’t much point! Being clear headed all the time is wonderful too!

      There’s a bit more about all this here:
      http://beinghappiness.com/enjoing-life-effortlessly/

      How about you?

      1. Thanks for the reply Ben, as I realised after I’d posted, that it was quite a personal question. I’ve been quite a heavy drinker since my teens (along with a lot of my family and friends). I think it started out as dutch courage, as although people thought I was very confident and the life and soul of the party, my self-esteem was very low.

        I stopped drinking a few times in my twenties and then again when I was pregnant and nursing my daughters, so I honestly thought it wasn’t a problem. Then I realised I was drinking for the sake of it and really not enjoying the taste even, so I stopped for seven months last year and felt great. I then started having the odd glass of wine which I really enjoyed, but fell off the wagon big style at a family party a few weeks ago. I felt soooo guilty and embarrassed even though I was the only person who thought I’d done anything wrong.

        My biggest concern is that my husband, also a big drinker (in a middle class sort of way ;)) doesn’t like me being sober and prefers the “old” Melanie who didn’t give a toss!

        Anyway, after reading your reply and the other post you linked, I’ve decided to try and relax and not have it be the first thing I think of in the morning but also try and not be tempted by other people topping up my drink when I don’t really want one. So thanks again.

        1. Thanks for such an honest reply Melanie. It is such a complex area, drinking, it’s so tied up with the things you mention – how it starts with dutch courage, how other people are involved in our drinking, our society, the class we belong to. I recently read a letter to the Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh (‘Thay’ in the letter) that I found very moving on this and other subjects. The man who wrote it talks about drinking and other problems: “I never ‘gave any of it up’. It just seemed to fall away from me.” I like that idea. If you are interested, it’s here:

          http://plumvillage.org/blog/friends/i-dont-run-away-anymore/

          Thanks again. Your question made me think again about the whole thing too. I think it might eventually ‘fall away’ in my case as well, or keep around nearly nothing. The important thing is not to be hard on ourselves if that isn’t always the case!

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